Monday, August 31, 2009


A novel (pun intended) concept for teaching kids to read: Let them read the books they want to read. Seems like a no-brainer, huh? Well, yes and no. A great article in the New York Times by Motoko Rich documents Lorrie McNeill’s teaching method--its pros and cons--of giving her 7th and 8th graders freedom in picking the books they want to read. McNeill was inspired by the work of Nancie Atwell, the author of In the Middle and The Reading Zone, popular guidebooks for teachers that promote giving students widespread choice. Co-publisher Lee Byrd here at Cinco Puntos says that a Teachers for Whole Languages list-serv that she is on is alive this morning with an on-going discussion about the article. Perhaps she’ll add a comment about what’s being said? One thing is for sure: we hope the kids choosing books will choose Cinco Puntos Press books.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Used to be we never spent too much time worrying about e-books and e-rights. Once maybe eight years ago at a meeting of 80 or 90 independent publishers, we talked long and hard about how to manage e-rights and e-royalties for our books and writers. My gosh, it was boring. After about an hour, I asked if anyone had ever read an e-book. Nobody raised their hand. Great. We gladly dropped the subject and went to the publisher party where the wine was delicious, the finger food was plentiful and the conversation loud and boisterous. Oh, those were the days. Since then, e-books have been a steady rumbling in the background for publishers, like white noise. Indeed, Cinco Puntos has several good e-clients who license our books, chief among them being Tumblebooks which specializes in children's books (complete with full-color illustrations, something which Kindle and most other e-platforms can't do) which they in turn license to libraries. But now, in the last couple of years things have changed, and our e-book conversations with other publishers have become dead serious. That's because Amazon Jeff Bezos e-bombed the bookish universe with news of his Kindle and its successor the Kindle 2. Amazon, if you didn't know it, rakes in approximately 13% of all book sales in the U.S. (I'm extrapolating that figure from the CBSD sales figures.) That's a big book store, that's a lot of money. And every time a buyer opens up the amazon homepage they see an ad for the Kindle. That's a lot of very free advertising. And the Kindle uses proprietary software, so if you buy the Kindle, then you need to buy the e-books through amazon. And amazon is going out of their way to make sure they are selling books at the cheapest going rate. $10 bucks. Thus, the Kindle edition is selling for a lot less than for a new hardback edition and cheaper than most paperbacks. And Kindle is of course not the only platform. Luis Urrea showed up at my house with a Sony Reader that uses Adobe pdf technology. He claimed it was good for his eyes and he'd head off to the guest bedroom to cuddle up with his e-book. Egads!

There are a bunch of platforms and technologies out there. Lots of questions for readers and publishers and writers to ask. Below are four articles that have been helpful to us as we wander out into the e-water. If you know of more, please send them along.

The funnest piece to read is Nicholson Baker's "A New Page: Can the Kindle really improve on the book?" in the New Yorker. It full of mockery, good writing, solid researched information and personal experience. The Kindle doesn't come out too good--it doesn't look like a book, it doesn't feel like a book, it aint a book. Take, for instance, the general premise: "Amazon is very good at selling things, but, to date, it hasn’t been as good at making things." Oh well, Jeff Bezos can handle it.

New York Times article for publishers--When do you schedule an e-book release? At release of hardback, release of paperback or whenever? And does e-book sales cannibalize sales of the traditional book?

Jack Shafer's article on Slate--"Does the Book Industry Want To Get Napstered? If the publishers force Amazon to raise prices on e-books, that's what will happen." The title says it all, but it does have a nice paragraph dissing the readability of ebooks.

At the recent BEA Sherman Alexie trashed Kindle as elitist technology that will further separate the rich from the poor. He refuses to allow his novels to be e-booked. There's a great interview with Sherman here on Edward Champion's blog.

--Bobby Byrd

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tila Rodriguez-Past

In my artistic practice I am constantly in pursuit of the aesthetic strangeness found lurking on the boundary between culture and nature. I create forms and images which do not fit comfortably into either category, and so reveal something about humankind’s struggle with nature as it attempts to assert the dominance of science. Mindful of Kant’s assertion that “art can only be termed beautiful” when it has “the appearance of nature”, I produce work that may not look like, or even represent natural forms, but rather deceives us into thinking that it is a self-subsisting essence, that it has arisen out of some natural power rather than having been constructed. Reflecting on the conquest of the ‘naked’ eye by advertising, my short films look to challenge habituated forms of viewing, celebrating the strange properties of movement which the camera reveals in slow motion. Interested in the unquantifiable properties of growth, I manipulate in my moving images both color and contrast in a manner which suggests a partiality of vision, and hints at the presence of a mysterious, perhaps sinister, essence driving the movements that are shown. With direct experience of nature at a premium my engagement with the digital manipulation of film is also in some way an ironical reflection upon the way culture inscribes its nostalgic view of what is beyond it in the digital age. Our fantasies of escape from mundane urban reality into the natural world have ironically produced an industry which superimposes the values of its digitally manipulative advertising over ordinary people’s aesthetic experience of nature. As much as I am interested in this process, my work also pursues the boundary between culture and nature mindful of the animistic world view that we see in antique cultures, when people held fast to their belief the the spirits of trees and cats would enact vengeance upon those who disrespected the laws of the natural world. While my work explores the new realms of meaning opened up by the world of digital media, it is also coloured with a nostalgia for the ancient reverences which still leave their traces in the present day.
--Artist Statement by Tila Rodriguez-Past
from her website

[CREDIT: Photo of Ambar Past, Tila Rodriguez-Past and Maruch Mendez is by artist Gloria Clark]
Lee and I are always interested in the next generation of the writers and artists we work with. It's always very interesting to see how what the next generation has learned through osmosis in a family of language and/or images morphs into who they become. Thus, we were delighted to learn more about sculptor and videographer Tila Rodguez-Past, the daughter of Ambar Past. Tila, visiting her mother in San Crisobal, Chiapas, collaborated with her and Maruch Mendez to create the video posted earlier on this blog. I then asked Tila for more information and besides the short bio that's pasted below I found her impressive website, especially the photographs of the impressive Mostricciatoli installation that appeared at the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute several years back. Even from photographs on a computer screen, Mostricciatoli gives the magically real feeling of wandering around the jungles of Chiapas among all the night noises of insects and animals and human beings whatever other ghostly beasts are talking to you in those dark nights.

Please, when you go to her website, watch the videos. They are wise and witty.

Here's Tila's short bio:

Tila Rodríguez-Past is a Mexican-American-English multidisciplinary artist. In 2006, having completed her BFA at San Francisco Art Institute, California, Rodríguez-Past was awarded her Masters degree with Distinction by Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts London. She currently lives in Brighton where she works as an Exhibition Space Manager and Volunteer and Education Coordinator at Fabrica. Rodríguez-Past has exhibited her work in Chiapas, San Francisco, Tuscany, Oxford, London and in Brighton. She is currently co project managing a group exhibition funded by the Arts Council England in which seven artist and three writers are exploring the way culture absorbs and remakes the past. For more information about the her upcoming exhibition please visit: or visit Rodriguez-Past website:www. Thank you!